This is usually the time of year when people look back over the past twelve months, take stock of their lives, and often resolve to do better or at least more of the same. I’ve never been very good about doing that. I look forward rather than backward, and anticipate the future rather than regret the past.
I do remember a certain feeling I would have as I was growing up when I recognized that I had learned something new: anything from a word to a way. It was an exciting emotion to me, knowing that I had grown, that I had learned, that I had achieved. Of course those moments don’t stop coming, at least for me, but they are neither as frequent nor intense as they were. I’m still learning though.
Writing is one way of learning for me. In my early twenties I first learned that I could earn my living by writing. For many years I researched subjects and wrote educational films based on that research. The best part of that was that I could learn something new, tell others what I had learned, get paid for doing it, and then move on to another subject. Turning to fiction after many years of facts opened a whole new area of study.
Fiction writing has thrust me into deeper study of myself, of my family and my friends and even people I know only through observation. While the stories writers tell may be completely made-up, what a writer knows about himself or about other people informs his characters, guides the plot or story arc, even designs and colors settings, locations, decorations and time lines. At the core of all of that lies the writer: who he is, what he knows, how he responds and reacts, how heroic or cowardly he might be. Writers are inveterate people-watchers, noting and annotating what they observe around them.
Now we come to the end of another year, and I’m still looking forward, learning forward. What happened in these last twelve months happened. What is done is done, and cannot be undone. Modified, perhaps – compensated for but not erased. We are who and what we are. Next year we may be the same or better or worse, but we will still be who we are.
I really don’t spend a lot of time looking back: I’m still thinking about what I want to be when I grow up.
Happy New Year.